HAZLE TWP. — Speaking from experience, Margaret Mullin Myler doesn’t want to see anyone end up like her.
She raised a family and worked as a nurse, but a return of symptoms from the polio she contracted as a child in 1948 makes her dependent upon an electric wheelchair and ventilator in her daily life.
The 69-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native now living in the Poconos was among the Rotary International club members recognized Sunday during a luncheon at the Genetti’s Best Western Inn and Suites for surviving the disease and working to eradicate it. She has been a member of the West End Rotary Club in Brodheadsville since 1991.
“Anybody that’s backing away from the vaccination, you hear stories and this and that they’re afraid they’re going to get polio from that, I encourage you from life experience,” she said. “You never want to see it happen.”
She recalled the separation from her parents for hospital treatments for the infectious disease, physical therapy, being placed in an iron lung, and the leg braces she wore.Her discharge from the hospital still chills her.
“Any toys or anything you had when you left, they burnt everything,” she said.
Children face a similar life, and possibly even death, today if they don’t receive the vaccine. The Rotary Foundation has made it its mission to eradicate the disease.
The organization’s efforts started as early as 1929, said Ron Smith, assistant regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator from Lansdale. Rotary has been doing community outreach programs on the need for vaccinations and fundraising to make polio the second disease eradicated, along with small pox.
“Because our vaccinations have somewhat stopped, it’s only a plane ride to come back to any country in the world. So with the final eradication of polio, we can say that we’ve been able to not have that scourge, that disease, in the world,” Smith said.
It affects the most vulnerable, such as the children and the poor, particularly in Muslim countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, where there is distrust of Westerners who administer the vaccine, he said.
“End Polio Now” is Rotary’s most important initiative and Smith explained why.The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a 2 to 1 match for every dollar Rotary commits to UNICEF and the World Health Organization for polio immunizations.
Rotary has 1.2 million members in 200 countries and because it’s non-religious and non-political, it can bridge the gap better than other organizations in the affected countries, Smith said.
“We don’t have an agenda other than to eliminate polio.”